Tag Archives: book club

Cold Bath Street – A. J. Hartley

A ghostly story, set in Preston, read for book club. I really liked this story. I enjoyed the local setting – a real novelty. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set so firmly in a place I’m familiar with. I liked the ghostly premise, and found the story page turning. However, many at book club didn’t quite take to it as kindly. I felt like it was people who were really into this genre considered it a bit light – possibly a YA ghost story. I didn’t get that at all, but then I’m a massive wimp and probably couldn’t cope with anything more scary!!

coldbathstreet1

The cover of the book is stunning. I noticed the creepy face in the clouds fairly early on, but there’s also a creepy figure next to the boy and I didn’t notice that until book club. It’s done using a shiny overlay and it was great that it took a while to notice.

coldbathstreet4

I can’t separate out the fact that I enjoyed the story and really liked that I knew the locations involved. I know the streets around Ribbleton, Avenham park, the Harris Museum and Art gallery, the Miley tunnel, and of course Cold Bath Street.

coldbathstreet6.jpg

It’s a tiny street near the University

My favourite painting from The Harris Museum is even in the story.

coldbathstreet5

Pauline in the Yellow Dress by Herbert James Gunn

coldbathstreet3.jpg

Aaaahhh Pauline!

This also nicely shows how beautifully illustrated the text is.ย  The illustrator is Janet Pickering.

So what is the story about? A boy dies. He gets trapped in limbo. Or The Bardo as I might like to call it since reading Lincoln in the Bardo (jk but that book is ace – do the audiobook though). There are NOT NICE things in this limbo. The living world can be accessed. Sort of, but it’s hard. Mystery and thrilling things ensue.

coldbathstreet2.jpg

book club

Also worth a mention, I found it a little jarring that the main character is called Preston. It just felt a little weird. Overall though, I enjoyed Cold Bath Street. It’s a genre I have almost no experience of, and I think a great introduction to it.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

A young journalist, Monique Grant, is unexpectedly requested to interview Evelyn Hugo – rich, reclusive, old time Hollywood Mega Star. We know from the beginning that she must have been chosen for some reason, but we don’t know what that is…

sevenhusbands5

I enjoyed Seven Husbands. I didn’t get the reveal until it was revealed, so that was pleasing. If *I* manage to guess what is going to happen, then it really must be tragically obvious.

The book is set up with this mystery about why Monique has been chosen to interview Evelyn. We go back to the present every now and again, but the focus of the book is on Evelyn telling her life story.ย The book is split into sections named after each of Evelyn’s husbands. Each with adjectives describing the husband. I liked this as a way of introducing the tone of the next marriage. There are also occasional newspaper articles on Evelyn and her life.

7husbands5

I suggested Seven Husbands for my book club. It was generally thought of as OK, but there’s not much to discuss about it, other than it was an enjoyable story. The funniest thing was someone noticing that it was the number 1 book in erotic bisexual fiction on Amazon. I’m afraid this might have left a few people a bit disappointed by the content! It’s, sadly, an extremely tame book in this respect!

sevenhusbands2

It’s essentially a good read. Hollywood love story, fame, love that can’t be made public, part mystery, glamour, dark secrets, it’s got a lot going on. Just don’t pick it for book club!

 

 

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

Four scientist women discover how to time travel. They successfully keep control of the technology and therefore become very rich and powerful, except one who is ostracised after the very first successful time jump.

We follow the women’s stories throughout their lives, and through their descendants.ย  Of course, not in any completely sensible linear way, because half of the characters are time travellers.

It’s a really good, quite thrilling read and I enjoyed a slightly unusual take on time travel. There’s no danger of anyone messing up the timeline because they live in a deterministic Universe. So we don’t have to deal with the Grandparent paradox or any classic time travel dangers. No split timelines, or parallel universes. It’s a nice straightforward way to do time travel! And yet, somehow, even though the events are predetermined, there’s still quite a good exciting story line!

Because there are no dangers associated with someone seeing themselves in this Universe, it means someone can hang out with themselves from different times. This leads to some great scenes, and some of my favourite moments of the book. For example, two characters are newly entering a relationship, when an older version of one of the characters shows up at their flat to restock the kitchen and do a bit of cleaning.

I had a little bit of trouble keeping up with all the characters – this would probably be ok if I had a paper copy of the book, rather than an ebook, because I would have just flicked back to remind myself who everyone was. It wasn’t that confusing though really ๐Ÿ˜€

Over all I enjoyed this book. An interesting, fun take on time travel, weaved into a thrilling adventure. Great fun.

Wake – Anna Hope


Set over five days in November 1920, Wake follows the lives of 3 women in the aftermath of the First World War, in the run up to the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey. It focuses on the effect of the war on the women left behind, and the general disruption to society in the years afterwards.

wake2

Wake manages to get across the feeling of collective grief felt by society after the war, and the dreadful situations many people found themselves in, particularly the poor soldiers who were traumatised, then abandoned by the government shortly after they returned home.

The chapters are interspersed with the story of the Unknown Warrior: the finding of a suitable body, the process of transporting it from France, and finally the burial. I liked how this linked the different stories, with it being the big news of the day, all the characters discuss it.

wake1

The three main stories in the book are about Hettie, a dancer at the Hammersmith Palais, whose brother has returned from the war a broken man. Evelyn, who lost her lover during the war and is now living a very grey existence without him. Finally, Ada whose son is missing, presumably dead, but she never received an official letter about him.

The stories of these women mean that a large cross section of the whole society are covered by the story. Different age groups and classes are all involved, and all are broken by the war in different ways.

wake5.JPG

Wake was chosen by my book club as we would be meeting near Remembrance Day. I really enjoyed in and was particularly glad to not have to read a book about how grim life in the trenches was. It was nice to read about how grim life in the UK could be after the war. ๐Ÿ˜€

The burial of the Unknown Warrior gives a potentially depressing book a more hopeful ending as it signifies the start of a collective healing for society and for some of our main characters. I really enjoyed Wake and would definitely recommend it.

Miss Nightingale’s Nurses – Kate Eastham

Ada Houston’s brother, and only surviving family, goes missing on Liverpool Docks. As she strongly suspects he has ended up on a ship to the Crimea, she follows and ends up becoming a nurse, helping the wounded of the Crimean War. Set in the 1850s, through Ada’s journey we find out about the origins of nursing as a profession, and about the Crimean War. It’s a really enjoyable read and I learnt loads from it too.

missnightingalesnurses4.JPG

breakfast.

In all honesty, I would never have picked this book to read in a million years. It doesn’t have a cover that appeals to me – it slightly makes me judge it and want to run away. I read it because it was chosen for a book club I’m in. And even more interestingly, Kate Eastham IS IN THE BOOK CLUB. No pressure then… I approached it with trepidation, but genuinely enjoyed it. I’m not even just being nice. It’s a really good book. The book club discussion was also really good because Kate was there (BRAVE!) and so we learnt a lot about the process of getting published too. It was a great night at book club!

missnightingalesnurses

theming my picture with some NURSING STUFF

Ada Houston is a great character. She’s strong and quite feisty, without it being over the top. I loved the ending, which I won’t spoil here, but let’s just say that I was dreading one thing happening, and that thing didn’t happen, and I was very happy. Hahaha. She encounters Florence Nightingale briefly, on her way to the front. There she has a lot more to do with Mary Seacole.

I didn’t really know anything about Mary Seacole before reading Miss Nightingale’s Nurses, or much about the Crimean War at all. Coincidentally, my five year old daughter has been learning about Mary Seacole at school, and she saw the cover of Miss Nightingale’s Nurses and asked if the lady on the cover was Mary Seacole! I mean, no clearly not, but she recognised the type of nurses outfit from the Crimean War times. She then went on the tell me some facts about Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale (like before them, you could just do a job if you decided to, and then afterwards you had to be trained. They made hospitals clean. Florence had a lamp. And they were from 200 THOUSAND years ago. So close). So yeh, this book provided some sort of idyllic, educational moment in my household. Ha!

 

missnightingalesnurses3.JPG

That chocolate was completely EPIC.

Ada’s adventure allows us to travel right to the front and get fully involved in some Crimean War action. We get to find out about the horror of war for the soldiers, and also for the supporting people like the doctors and nurses. It’s definitely not a sanitised look at the effects of war – there are some quite detailed medical bits in this book! But above all else, it’s a good story and I enjoyed reading it.

This is the first in a series of books that are all generally themed around the history of nursing. The next book is about nursing after the Crimean War, in Liverpool. Where the Nightingale nurses came home and became established in hospitals.ย  I think this one will be interesting too!

 

The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce

The Music Shop is a sweet love story about a nice man who runs a music shop, and an unusual German lady.

musicshop1.JPG

Frank, the shop owner, also has a special skill. He can tell exactly what music a person needs to listen to. What they *really* need at that moment in their life. And he’s kind. And he will only sell vinyl. He’s very strict about that. But it’s 1988 and vinyl is on its way out.

Franks’s shop is on a little tucked away street of independent shops called Unity Street. There’s a bakers, a funeral parlour, a tattooist, a florist, and a shop for religious iconography. All struggling to survive against the big chains in town. The cast of characters in Frank’s world are great. The other shop owners, and various regulars in the shop, were all quirky enough to be interesting without being unbelievable.

Enter Ilse, the unusual German lady with a green coat who rocks Franks’s world. Ilse is the only person who Frank can’t decide what music she wants.

musicshop2.JPG

I liked The Music Shop. It’s very sweet and it has a quite sweet ending. But the sweet ending also made me feel really quite sad. It was bittersweet. I can’t explain more without giving the plot away.

I struggled to picture Ilse. Not having a picture of her in my mind – age, shape, anything really – made is tricky for me to connect with her character. But I’m now wondering if that was the point… like Frank couldn’t read her… and neither could I… ooh…

musicshop3

I really liked Frank and his shop though. The (many) descriptions of music were really enjoyable too. Frank seemed like such a sweetheart and I just felt this even more as his childhood, and his relationship with his mother, is revealed to us as we go through the book.

Overall it was a nice read. As a music fan, I loved all the music references, and music chat. But it’s a sweet love story, easy to read, and has some fab characters.

Crisis – Frank Gardner

James Bond, but he’s nice and a bit boring. I can’t really write a review for this book. It was for book club and loads of others really liked it, and some people didn’t and I just found it a bit meh.

crisis1.JPG

I love this about book club – being made to read books I wouldn’t normally pick up. Sometimes it leads me to something I love, and other times it’s just not going to work so well. But I like being made to read away from my comfort zone.

crisis3

I’ve struggled so much with this review, that it;s taken me five weeks to write it, and I’ve got four books I’ve read since to review waiting. I realise that I *could* just have skipped it, or wrote the other reviews first… but that is not how my brain likes to do things. So here we are. I can get on with the other reviews now!

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

A really engaging read about eight generations of a family, starting with two sisters, Effia and Esi, one sold into slavery, one becoming a slave traders wife. We follow each side of the family by generation, in turn. This means we have what is essentially fourteen short stories about (mostly) new, but connected characters each time.

homegoing

Great read.

From the back of the book:

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow: from thr Gold Coast of Africa to the plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem. Spanning continents and generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel – an intense, heartbreaking story of one family and, through their lives, the story of America itself.

The first stories take place around 1770, on the African Gold Coast, the final stories take place in modern day United States, and also back on the Gold Coast. One side of the stories follows the family into the United States and into slavery. The other side of the family stay in Africa, and only in the final generation make the journey to the United States.

homegoing1.JPG

Classic book and beer combo.

The book read, to me, very much like a collection of short, connected stories. Almost every story has a new setting, new characters, and a new focus. Each chapter was written so well, I quickly cared for and got involved in the new story. This is almost miraculous to be able to keep this up through fourteen chapters, and is a real testament to the excellent writing and the engaging stories.

homegoing3.JPG

Such a beautiful cover

I have read quite a lot of books about slavery in the United States (notably The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Beloved by Toni Morrison), and I really liked how in parallel to the United States experiences, you get stories of the same time period on the Gold Coast. It’s a perspective I’ve never read about in fiction before.

homegoing2

What book are in your bag today?

I don’t want to get into describing the individual stories – we would be here for a while! It is a great read. Really interesting to get the different aspects of the slave trade on the two different continents, and I would really recommend it. I read this for a book club I’m in, and it was overwhelmingly loved!

This Must Be the Place – Maggie O’Farrell

Another book club read. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t completely blown away by it. I think it was just because one of the main characters just irritated me!

thismustbetheplace2.JPG

From the back of the book:

A reclusive former film star living in the wilds of Ireland, Claudette Wells thinks nothing of firing a gun if strangers get too close to her house. Why is she so fiercely protective of her privacy, and what made her disappear at the height of her cinematic fame?

Her husband Daniel, reeling from a discovery about a woman he last saw twenty years ago, is about to make an exit of his own. It is a journey that will send him off-course, far from home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

This Must Be the Place crosses continents and time zones, creating a portrait of an extraordinary marriage, the forces that hold it together and the pressures that drive it apart.

I really liked the structure of This Must Be the Place. Each chapter is narrated by a different character. Some main characters get a few chapters, but many minor characters get their own chapters too, and it often gave an interesting perspective on the story.

thismustbetheplace3.JPG

book club snacks!

A couple of my favourite chapters were stories that really didn’t have anything to do with the main plot! I loved Ari, Claudette’s oldest child from a former relationship, when he is sent to his school councillor and he just displays maximum intelligent teenage arrogance. He totally owns the councillor in a way I shouldn’t have enjoyed quite as much as I did, being a teacher!

thismustbetheplace1.JPG

Ultimately, even with the interesting way it’s narrated by many characters, I couldn’t forgive Daniel for just being a bit pathetic, and Claudette for her wildly over-the-top and unforgiving character. Out of our book club discussion, we think we just don’t quite get the detail of these character’s motivation for some important decisions, just because we are seeing it through other peoples observations, so we didn’t get inside the characters heads enough.

I also found it unbelievable that Claudette could disappear as effectively as she did. Perhaps in the 90s it would have been ok, but getting into the modern day, with the internet, I have no doubt she would be easily found. She still travels on commercial air flights, and her great deception seems to be that she bought her house in her brother’s name. It’s really not that sneaky.

Finally, it’s just over 500 pages long, which is a bit much when you don’t absolutely love a book!

Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller

This was an enjoyable book club read. The story is of 8 year old Peggy who is taken to live in the wilderness by her survivalist Father. It’s also the story of her reemergence into ordinary life at age 17. Until then, she had believed the rest of the world had perished in some big disaster, and only herself and her Father were left.

ourendlessnumbereddays

The cover of Our Endless Numbered Days is gorgeous, silver and shiny, and is very evocative of fairy stories like Hansel and Gretel. It’s so pretty I took loads of photos of it while I was reading the book. Consequently, this review is mostly going to be pictures. ๐Ÿ˜€

ourendlessnumbereddays2.JPG

You get the story of how Peggy disappeared, and how she is adjusting to being back, interchangeably from the beginning of the book. I’m glad that you know from the start she makes it back, because otherwise I don’t think I’d have been able to take some of the later events. Lets just say living alone in the woods for 8 years makes people go a bit doolally. There’s some really grim events later in the story.

ourendlessnumbereddays3

At book club, many people talked about how they have thought about running away from it all, and how idyllic that idea seems. I don’t get that at all. I can cope with camping for a week, but no more thanks!

ourendlessnumbereddays5.JPG

The story is told from Peggy’s perspective and I think this gives the whole going to the woods thing a great sense of adventure, and it really works for this story. I was itching to know more about the Father’s motivations though. Why he leaves the rest of his family? Such a bizarre decision.

ourendlessnumbereddays4.JPG

This is the second book by Fuller I’ve read (the other being Swimming Lessons, which I really enjoyed.) and once the story got going, I didn’t want to stop reading until I’d discovered what happened. A great choice for book club.

ourendlessnumbereddays6.JPG